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Undergraduates dive into summer research fellowship

While some students spend their summers working, interning or simply relaxing, four Bradley students utilized this past summer to conduct their own research through a guided university program.

The students were given this opportunity through the Undergraduate Summer Research and Artistry Fellowship program started by the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (LAS). The program was created two years ago to encourage students to explore what graduate-level research in order to equip them for future careers. 

“[We want] to help students who are rising seniors, students in their junior year, to help them to really get an opportunity for in-depth study that will then launch them into their senior year to create a really high-level capstone project or senior thesis,” Derek Montgomery, associate dean of engaged learning for LAS, said. 

According to Montgomery, who is also a psychology professor, the program sets Bradley apart from other colleges.

“This $4,500 stipend puts us at the upper-echelon of universities across the nation,” Montgomery said. “You’d be hardpressed to find any university that goes beyond what we offer students, and that is just a reflection of how much we value this opportunity with research.”

Sarah McMillan, a junior biochemistry and psychology double major, was one of the four students who participated in the program, alongside Matthew Folkenroth, Nicole Pearl and Annie Schuver, to get a better feel for what graduate school could have in store.

“I came in as pre-med, and I didn’t think that I wanted to do research, but then I got involved in a lab and really enjoyed it,” McMillan said. “So I was at a place where I was like, ‘I’m not sure if I want to go to graduate school,’ and something like this is important to dive into full-time research before you commit to graduate school.”

Schuver, a senior organizational communications major, said she was able to apply her minors in sociology and women and gender studies to her own original research topic during the fellowship.

Schuver’s research regarded how public, middle and high school sex education influences understandings of sexual consent and rape.

 “I’m looking at sex ed curriculum and seeing what kinds of themes they teach that have to do with sexual violence or creating ethical sexual relationships,” Schuver said.

 The students who participated in this program were given complete control over their area of research and the studies they conducted. While the student researchers had faculty advisors, it was their own ideas, questions and experiments coming to life.

 “It was really awesome to be able to say I was doing my own research as an undergrad … just because I got to design the project myself and I’ve gotten to carry it all out,” Schuver said. “I have somebody who is my advisor for any questions or to help give me advice, but at the end of the day, it’s my project, and it’ll be my publication.”

 McMillan and Schuver echoed each other’s sentiments about their experiences and urged other students interested in research to consider this program.

“You can’t be afraid to try new things,” McMillan said. “To have [new] ideas is kind of intimidating as an undergraduate [because] you don’t think you’re really capable of that, but you definitely are.”

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